Ailene Voisin

Kings’ DeMarcus Cousins earning praise for World Cup performances

As he predicted – so he deserves all the credit – DeMarcus Cousins is making the most of his opportunity with Team USA.

Six games into the FIBA World Cup that began in Bilbao, Spain, and continues in Barcelona Tuesday against Slovenia, the Kings’ fifth-year center has established himself as Anthony Davis’ backup and the first big man off the bench. He is averaging 9.8 points and 5 rebounds, and coming off his best performance (11 points, seven rebounds) in Saturday’s round-of-16 victory over Mexico.

Physically, the 6-foot-11, 270-pound veteran appears to be slimming down while consistently providing the muscular interior presence Team USA will need in an anticipated gold medal matchup Sunday against Spain. This is assuming, of course, that both countries make it through this week’s single-elimination games.

After the win over Mexico, coach Mike Krzyzewski made a point of praising Cousins.

“I think his defense has really improved,” said Krzyzewski, the longtime national team coach. “He tried to take three charges today. I thought he played … he’d get an A-plus from me today. Let’s put it that way.”